Matthew Fisher wrote two postings to 'Beyond the Pale' about the BGO double-CD of his first two albums:
I thought it was about time I made a few things clear, regarding the recent BGO release of my first two albums, Journey's End and I'll Be There.
The rights of these two albums belong to RCA (or BMG, or whatever they're calling themselves this week). Consequently, I do not stand to receive any royalties from the sale of these records.
For the same reason, I was not consulted regarding this release (other than to help track down some original artwork) and not asked to approve any tapes, pressings or masters. I was not even informed when the record was finally released.
I heard via Roland that some of the masters supplied by BMG/RCA had 'deteriorated ... beyond belief' and were rejected by the pressing plant, and that BGO had contacted BMG to see if there was an alternate source. I conclude that alternative recordings were supplied and used to press the record.
I've not listened to the record myself, but the comments I have heard from people whose judgement I trust suggest that these new tapes are not the authentic recordings. It would seem to me that they must therefore either be out-takes, rough mixes, monitor mixes, demos or re-mixes done at the behest of RCA/BMG without my knowledge, approval or input.
BGO have been notified and are making enquiries. I do not know what their intentions are, but I should have thought that as things stand right now, they are in clear breach of the Trades Descriptions Act. My advice would be for them to insist that RCA/BMG obtain the best vinyl copies they can, and re-master from them. Any competent mastering studio should have the necessary software to remove scratches and surface noise from the recordings.
On behalf of all those companies and individuals who are (unlike me) actually making money out of this venture, I should like to apologise to anyone who has paid good money for what appears to be a sub-standard product.
It seems that some parts of my previous posting were misunderstood, in particular my remarks about my not receiving any royalties for the Journey's End / I'll Be There CD. It's easy to forget that people who have never worked in the music business often don't understand how it works.
BGO (who, incidentally, are just about the most scrupulously honest record company I have ever dealt with) are bound to pay royalties to the 'Owner of the Recorded Work', who in this case is RCA/BMG. In turn, any artist royalties due to me would be paid to me by RCA. However, I'm 99.9% sure that RCA would argue that no royalties would be payable to me until all the original advances and production costs had been recouped (which should happen about the same time that the UK Government agrees to abolish Income Tax and Sadaam Hussein applies for Israeli citizenship).
I don't have a problem with this, since I'm happy that these recordings should be made available to anyone who would like to have them. The only reason I mentioned it was to make it quite clear that I was NOT part of some scheme to make a quick buck out of marketing my out-takes and demos in the hope that nobody would notice the difference.
I think BGO should be congratulated for having succeeded (where others had failed) in negotiating a deal with RCA for these albums. Having done so, they had every right to expect that the tapes they received from RCA were the ones they had paid for.
It certainly never occurred to me that a major record company like RCA would make such a mistake, otherwise I would have insisted on checking the tapes myself. However, it appears that Mike Gott at BGO was under the impression that I had no interest in the release and didn't want to be bothered with such matters. I can't remember exactly what I might have said at the time to give this impression, but it would have been in the context that when one asks (or is asked) to approve masters it is usually with regard to their quality – not their identity! Since the mastering of my other BGO double CD had been done so well, I assumed that everything would be OK.
So perhaps I was a little hard on BGO. On reflection, I would apportion the blame for this situation as follows: RCA 99%, BGO 1%, me 0%. Conversely, I would assess the potential damage to reputations as: me 99%, BGO 1%, RCA 0%. I think I see a pattern emerging here ...
Matthew Fisher, February 2001